Four Deserving Hall of Famers, Omar Vizquel New to Ballot

As I noted in my post at the end of last week regarding Hall of Fame holdovers, the ballot is a bit of a mess right now. There are already seven players who’ve received at least 45% of the vote — generally a pretty good gauge of worthiness when it comes to the Hall — plus a handful of others (Larry Walker, in particular) who are lower on the ballot but deserve induction, as well.

Joining that group of deserving candidates this offseason is a collection of four additional players who merit a place in the Hall — as well as Omar Vizquel, who is getting a lot of votes in the early going. This year’s entries include one no-doubter (Chipper Jones), another who’s deserving and likely to earn induction on the strength of his offensive contributions (Jim Thome), and two more players who merit selection but whose case rests largely on defensive contributions (Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen).

Before we get to the contenders, let’s take a brief look at the players who’ve earned spots on the ballot with solid careers but lack much of a case for the Hall.

For the players below, I’ve included several metrics, including Hall of Fame rating and JAWS. If you’re unfamiliar with Hall of Fame rating, you can find the introduction here. It works similarly to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS except that it uses FanGraphs WAR instead of Baseball-Reference and measures peak in a different way, so as to encompass all of a player’s good seasons. HOF AVG and MEDIAN denote the average and median HOF Ratings of players at a candidate’s respective position. BBWAA AVG and MEDIAN denote the same thing, except consider only those players voted in by writers (and not those inducted by, say, the Veterans’ Committee).

Hall of Fame Ballot: Under 35 WAR
14 34.5 24.3 55.5 50.8 66.9 63.3 29.4 62.1
13 30.6 21.8 55.5 50.8 66.9 63.3 41.8 62.1
9 27.5 18.3 55.7 49.7 62.7 52.5 25.8 53.3
10 23.7 16.9 55.5 50.8 66.9 63.3 26.4 62.1
5 21.1 13.1 59.8 52.8 77.1 65.4 29.1 56.9
9 17.1 13.1 59.1 57.0 66.3 57.1 21.4 54.6
4 12.9 8.5 55.7 49.7 62.7 52.5 21.3 53.3
3 11.6 7.3 22.3 18.7 22.3 18.7 10.3 34.4
2 11.2 6.6 22.3 18.7 22.3 18.7 12.7 34.4

Here are some notes on each player:

  • Livan Hernandez had a nice career, including the receipt of a World Series MVP award with the Marlins in 1997, but passed much of his time as a roughly average innings-eater with three seasons above four WAR.
  • In every season between 2003 to 2007, Carlos Zambrano exceeded 200 innings and averaged four wins a season, but after a couple more decent seasons, the productive part of his career was basically over after 2010.
  • Carlos Lee was a good hitter and durable player, recording a 112 wRC+ and 628 plate appearances per season over his 14-year career. He hit at least 24 homers in 11 straight years. His overall defense probably wasn’t as bad as you remember if you watched mostly the latter half of his playing days and, as a left fielder, he supplied enough pop to be an above-average player.
  • Kerry Wood has the single-game strikeout record with 20, but arm problems derailed a promising career and forced him to the bullpen before retiring after the 2012 season.
  • Orlando Hudson put up average offensive numbers with solid defense at second base over the course of his 11-year career.
  • Aubrey Huff was a decent power hitter back when the Devil Rays were still a thing, and he will always have the 2010 championship season with the San Francisco Giants in which he put up six wins. That campaign was sandwiched, however, by two years during which he recorded a combined three wins below replacement level.
  • Hideki Matsui didn’t make it to the United States until his age-29 season but did last 10 years in the big leagues with a 119 wRC+.
  • Brad Lidge was a really good reliever over his first three years as a major leaguer, a pretty good one for three years after that, and then proceeded to retain a big-league job for the last four years of his career.
  • Jason Isringhausen racked up 300 saves and was a fairly effective closer for a number of years with the A’s and Cardinals until he was replaced midway through the 2006 season, St. Louis eventually winning the World Series with Adam Wainwright at the back of the bullpen.

Now here’s a group of guys who were very good but probably fall short of the Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame Ballot: Very Good
30 45.4 37.7 55.5 50.8 66.9 63.3 48.1 62.1
22 46.1 34.1 55.5 50.8 66.9 63.3 27.1 62.1
19 44.5 31.8 64.6 49.2 92.1 77.1 44.4 57.9
15 48.2 31.6 55.5 50.8 66.9 63.3 41.8 62.1
20 39.1 29.6 55.5 50.8 66.9 63.3 32.1 62.1
16 42.6 29.3 55.0 52.5 62.0 57.8 36 54.8

I’ve already written about Omar Vizquel and about just how terrible he was on offense, so there’s no need to go over it again.

Chris Carpenter was an above-average pitcher with the Blue Jays for a few seasons, sustained an injury, and then reemerged with the Cardinals from 2004 to 11. While limited by injury a bit in St. Louis, as well, Carpenter nevertheless pitched like an ace during six healthy seasons, averaging roughly five wins each. That period included a Cy Young award, two other top-three finishes, and two World Series Championships. He started three of the seven games in the 2011 World Series, including the clincher, and had a 2.00 ERA in four World Series starts. He has 108 postseason innings with a 3.00 ERA and a 4.30 FIP.

Jamie Moyer pitched for a really, really long time. Overall, he was an average pitcher, which is pretty remarkable over 4,000 innings. Nathaniel Rakich recently compared Moyer’s case to Omar Vizquel, and the two are pretty close in value.

Johnny Damon amassed a lot of hits (2769), had a good walk rate, didn’t strike out much, and stole over 400 bases at a high rate (79.8%). He’s one of 10 players with at least 400 steals and 200 homers, though only half the members of that fraternity are Hall of Famers. His less-than-stellar defense balanced out his very good baserunning, leaving an above-average hitter (105 wRC+) on a few pretty well known championship teams. He was often good, with four four-WAR seasons and another seven above two wins, but he was never great.

Kevin Millwood finished his career with an ERA and FIP both around four, and that is pretty good given that his career came about during the late 90s and early 2000s. Millwood had five season of at least four wins and finished third in the Cy Young in 1999. His numbers look better than I expected at first glance.

There are going to be some Sandy Koufax comparisons when it comes to Johan Santana due to his short career and excellence when healthy. Santana was great, winning two Cy Young awards and finishing third twice. The comparisons to Koufax are still a bit unrealistic, though. From 2004 to -06, Santana averaged 6.9 WAR, which is great. Koufax, on the other hand, averaged 7.7 WAR between 1961 and 1966, which is otherworldly given the production came in double the years of Santana’s best. Santana was great, but he really doesn’t come close to Koufax in terms of greatness. If you prefer Baseball Reference’s version of WAR, Santana’s 7.1 average WAR from 2004 to -08 is impressive, but it still doesn’t match Koufax’s 7.8 bWAR over a six-year period.

Then we have the guys who should make the Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame Ballot: Should Be In
62 84.6 73.3 57.3 52.6 71.9 75.3 65.8 55.2
53 70.1 61.6 57.3 52.6 71.9 75.3 56.8 55.2
53 67.1 60.1 64.6 49.2 92.1 77.1 54.6 57.9
46 68.9 57.5 59.1 57.0 66.3 57.1 57.2 54.6

We have one slam dunk in Chipper Jones. The 1999 MVP winner shouldn’t really need a big write-up, but his 85 WAR places him in a tie with George Brett for fourth place all time among third baseman, trailing only Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, and Wade Boggs by that measure.

As for Jim Thome, it seems as though his 612 home runs are going to get him into the Hall of Fame, although I will also note that, of the 85 players who played long enough to compile 10,000 plate appearances (including 52 Hall of Famers), only Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds have a higher walk rate than Thome’s 16.9%.

I’ve previously addressed Scott Rolen’s candidacy at length, and Paul Swydan discussed Andruw Jones’ candidacy.

The addition of four deserving candidates creates a lot of tough calls for voters who are allowed to make just 10 selections. If I had one, I think I would take the four new deserving candidates above along with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Larry Walker. If I could expand my ballot, I would probably include Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, and Gary Sheffield.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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Joe Joemember
6 years ago

“The addition of four deserving candidates creates a lot of tough calls for voters who are allowed to make just 10 selections.” I don’t see why this is tough. If there are more 10 slam dunk should be Hall of Famers, pick 10 and move along. Problem is the small Hall guys don’t believe that and it is probably very easy for them to pick their guys.

6 years ago
Reply to  Joe Joe

So how would you decide who not to vote for?

6 years ago
Reply to  LHPSU

Vote for the ones that are most likely to need your vote to get to 75% (or closer to build momentum) or 5%.

Or just vote for the 10 you think are the best.

6 years ago
Reply to  TKDC

Which essentially is what people are doing, nein?

6 years ago
Reply to  TKDC

I’m conflicted on the former approach. On one hand, it does seem to maximize your voting power to vote based on context such as if it’s a player’s final year. However, I wonder if voters continually doing this sort of “ballot management” type thing is actually causing the problem that they’re trying to solve. If voters do anything other than simply voting for the ten best players, then some of the best players, by the voter’s own definition, are at risk for slipping another year, requiring more ballot management the next year to solve the problem that they created.

Using some arbitrary players as examples, if some voter votes for Fred McGriff instead of Jim Thome, but he really thinks Jim Thome is better, he’s just concerned that Fred McGriff is slipping, now next year he has to solve the Jim Thome problem he created. Now what happens if the voting pool gets more competitive? Some players like Thome that, again, by his own definition were deserving in a prior year, might be faced with an uphill battle. If many voters think this way, it could have a systematic effect.

It feels like ballot management might create a mess that would be solved by just consistently voting for the best players every year. Of course, some ballots are more competitive than others, so players slip, but that’s inherently part of the idea of the Hall of Fame. You’re always competing against your peers, and the structure of the voting demands that you choose the ten best every year. If a player was never once one of the ten best for their entire eligibility, and is now on their final ballot and still is not one of the ten best on this ballot, that’s probably an indication that they aren’t deserving by the present voting structure. Whether or not you think the structure is a good one is a separate debate.

Six Ten
6 years ago
Reply to  robodew

Yep, it’ll screw a few guys over in the short term for everyone to stop managing their ballots. But in the long term it’ll do more to fix the problem than trying to game it out. And if the number of players worthy of consideration by the Today’s Game and Modern Baseball committees shrinks, more of the candidates inspiring ballot management will eventually get their enshrinement via those other paths.

6 years ago
Reply to  Six Ten

The obvious problem is with the voting process set forth by the HOF. I’m gobsmacked that they can’t get it right. A guy is or isn’t a HOFer, though in some cases a voter may not be sure about a particular player.

Which means that voters should be required to vote on every player on the ballot – yes, no, not sure. The Yes’s lead to election, the Yes’s + Not sure’s determine if someone stays on the ballot or not.

6 years ago
Reply to  LHPSU

It’s an interesting thing to ponder, what the ideal ballot would look like. I support 14 guys. I don’t think PED guys should be kept out, but I also don’t mind making them wait. So I would probably vote Vlad, Andruw, Chipper, Edgar, Mussina, Rolen, Schilling, Sheffield, Thome, Walker. Sheffield over the other PED guys (Bonds, Clemens, Manny, Sosa) because he looks likeliest to fall below 5%. I could be totally wrong though, voting for the ten best might be better, since no one knows for sure the clean guys were really clean. At any rate, the ten vote maximum is supremely dumb and needs abolished.

OddBall Herrera
6 years ago
Reply to  3cardmonty

I don’t think there is a one year answer to the right ballot, you have to have a multi year plan to keep guys from timing out or falling off the bottom of the ballot

Because it’s inarguable:
1. Chipper Jones

Because I think the great PED guys need to get in, and to do that they need to keep showing momentum:
2. Barry Bonds
3. Roger Clemens

Should get in before Thome or Vlad do, especially in year 8 of candidacy:
4. Edgar Martinez

Because it’s now a joke with Morris in:
5. Mike Mussina
6. Curt Schilling

To keep deserving guys from falling off the ballot:
7. Gary Sheffield
8. Larry Walker
9. Andruw Jones

Vlad and Thome will have their day and have plenty of time to make it in, and I am not sold on Trevor Hoffman. I wish I had one more spot for Manny. Rolen probably has enough support to stick around until next year.

Sosa…I put you on the McGwire and Palmeiro category, if you got caught with PEDs the bar is higher, Bonds and Clemens are above it.

6 years ago

What about Manny?

6 years ago
Reply to  JJ17Chi

He wish he had one more spot for him.

OddBall Herrera
6 years ago
Reply to  LHPSU

So I just discovered that it’s 10 votes and not 9, and that it’s Edgar’s 9th season of eligibility.

Oddball Herrera, long on opinions, short on facts I guess 🙂

Joe Joemember
6 years ago
Reply to  LHPSU

You are not deciding who not to vote. You are picking 10 worthy candidates. If there are more than 10 definitely worthy candidates, that is all you can do. How you pick those 10 guys out of the pool of worthy candidates is irrelevant as all ballots with 10 worthy candidates is as perfect as a ballot can be. You can’t control how other people vote.

Voting should only be tough when a voter actually has to discern if a borderline HoF player is worthy or not (i.e., less than 10 definite Hall of Fame worthy guys).

John Autin
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe Joe

Your view of HOF ballots as strictly votes FOR seems deliberately narrow. You seem not to care that candidates are constrained by both time and the 5% dropoff threshold.

To use an extreme hypothetical, suppose that all voters agreed on the same 11 utterly worthy candidates, in the same order, and all voted for the top 10. Number 11 would then be DROPPED from the writers’ ballot, even though every voter wanted him in the Hall.

Some people would still find it easy to vote for the top 10 in that scenario, and I wouldn’t criticize them. But a lot of people would find it tough, and I’d understand why.

Joe Joemember
6 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

If every voter voted for the same 10 guys, the 11th guy though worthy would lose eligibility. If every person voted to keep person “X” on the ballot, a better player could be dropped off or the backlog could be worsened such that less than 10 of the 11 worthy candidates make it to the Hall eventually.

I’m not advocating that a voter has to pick the best 10 guys. Voter just needs to pick 10 guys that are worthy. If they vote who they think are the 10 best, that is fine. If they vote for ten worthy guys trying to keep certain guys on, that is fine. If they put every worthy player’s name in a hat and draw ten names, that is fine.

Problem isn’t with a ballot that has 10 Hall worthy names on it. These aren’t the ballots keeping worthy guys out.

6 years ago
Reply to  LHPSU

Easy Choice [7]: Chipper (1st year), Schilling (5th), Mussina (6th), Walker (8th), Thome (1st), Rolen (1st) & Martinez (9th)

Debatable [3]: Bonds (6th), Clemens (6th), Manny (2nd)

None of the other players have above average HOF profiles.

If you feel the need to vote for one of the other candidates- as Travis did above with A. Jones – then Manny (only +1.3 JAWS-Jpos, caught PED) can wait until his 3/4th year.

Similarly making Hoffmann (3rd year) & Vlad (2nd year) get in on their 4/5th tries during the easier years ahead (only Jeter, Mo & Arod above average candidates in the next 5 classes) would not be difficult, or tragic, or due to backlog. Instead it’d be fitting.

Apart from that we are talking above guys with below average profiles who got caught or admitted using (Sosa, Sheffield) or other guys with below average profiles (aside from Vlad and Hoffman: Damon, McGriff, Kent, Santana).